Thursday, October 13, 2016
Contact: Catherine Mendonça, AF3IRM San Diego Coordinator, [email protected]

SAN DIEGOAF3IRM San Diego, along with over a dozen community organizations, responded to the call of action to protest against the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in southeast San Diego. On July 5th, groups began a rolling fast next to the Oceanview Facility. As we mark the 100th day of this ongoing protest, AF3IRM asserts now more than ever that the private prison industry must end!

AF3IRM SD Day 100As a transnational feminist, anti-imperialist organization, AF3IRM knows it is imperative to resist the capitalist and racist system of incarceration. The school-to-prison pipeline leaves many already marginalized communities vulnerable to incarceration. AF3IRM San Diego especially recognizes the detrimental impact that the corporate for-profit prison industry has on the personal autonomy of women. Currently, more than one million women are behind bars or under the control of the criminal (in)justice system either through probation or parole. More than 8x as many women have been incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails compared to 1980, increasing in number from 12,300 to 182,271 by 2002.  The U.S incarcerates far more women than nearly all other nations, accounting for more than 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women’s population, with women of color significantly overrepresented. The war on drugs has had a hard impact on the incarceration of women of color, especially Black, Latina and Indigenous  women. Many women in prison have also experienced physical or sexual trauma at the hands of men and 92% of all women in California prisons had been abused, both physically and emotionally, in their lifetimes.

As the largest and oldest private prison corporation in the United States, CCA has a long history of profiting off the incarceration and detention of millions, as well as a record of abuses and deaths. They have designed a prison, detention, and re-entry system that is only meant to fail those who are/have been incarcerated because more people in their prisons and facilities means more profit from their contracts.

Their facilities’ conditions put women prisoners and detainees at severe risk of sexual and physical abuse and merely perpetuate an isolating and dehumanizing environment, so that CCA can continue to earn more money under contracts with the state and federal governments. The probability of staff sexual misconduct and abuse result not just from a lack of oversight, but through the supervision of women without a female guard present, cross-gender searches, the exposure of their naked bodies to male guards and other practices. Otter Creek Correctional Center, a CCA facility in Kentucky that housed over 400 female prisoners from 2005 until January 2010, disturbingly had predominantly male staff. In combination with the lack of accountability for CCA employees and absence of oversight, this resulted in reported rampant sexual abuse of female prisoners by guards at a rate that was four times higher than reported at the comparable state-run women’s correctional facility. Otter Creek was eventually shut down. We know that Otter Creek is not an anomaly as it is reported that within the overall state prison population, almost 60% of women state prisoners reported past sexual abuse compared to 16.1% of male state prisoners. Furthermore, the often arbitrary use of solitary confinement place women prisoners at risk of being re-traumatized as victims of past sexual abuse as they face more sexual abuse and constant monitoring. Solitary confinement impacts the families and children of those incarcerated as well. They may not be allowed visits and almost never are able to have any sort of personal contact. With around 62% of women state prisoners and 56% of women federal prisoners with minor children, incarceration can damage the parent-child relationship and lead to an increased risk of generational trauma.

Recent protests have demonstrated the need to abolish private prison corporations, as well as to fight against conditions in prisons and the prison industrial complex overall. In November 2015, twenty-seven women launched a peaceful protest through an indefinite hunger strike against Hutto Detention Center, an all-women immigrant detention center in Taylor, Texas operated by CCA for ICE. The women complained of long detention times, neglect, and poor medical treatment and demanded immediate release. CCA responded not with remedies but with retaliation, placing some of them in solitary confinement or transferring them without informing their families. In August of this year, twenty-two asylum-seeking mothers went on a on hunger strike in protest of their long detention stay at the Berks County Residential Center, a Pennsylvania detention center which houses migrant mothers and their children as they await deportation or asylum. On September 9th, the largest prison strike in U.S. history was launched across the nation as a protest against prison slavery. Just recently, AF3IRM members joined the California Coalition for Women Prisoners in a vigil and action against the the abuse and neglect at the California Institute of Women in Chino, where there have been several deaths of those in custody.   

The Justice Department even released a report in August on the use of private prisons that pointed to higher rates of violence than their publicly run counterparts, failure to provide adequate medical care, and more frequent use of lockdowns. They came to the conclusion that private prisons were not being correctly run or monitored and that Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates recommended that contracts not be renewed or severely cut back and eventually ended. However, despite the Justice Department’s recent promise to phase out contracts with private prisons, the business of private prisons will not end. These companies still have contracts with state and local departments, as well as with ICE. Just recently, GEO group, another for-profit prison company, launched a formal protest against the Justice Department’s decision and is throwing their money towards demanding their contracts be renewed, as well as pulling support from government officials. Furthermore, CCA also has contracts for re-entry and “alternative services” facilities that merely continue the profiteering from their detention and prison centers.  It is imperative that the fight against the private prison industry must continue.

In San Diego County, there are three Correctional Facilities: Otay Mesa Detention Center, with 1,567 beds that house both men and women, and Correctional Alternatives (CAI) – Ocean View and Boston Ave, which are in residential neighborhoods. CAI Boston Ave is in Barrio Logan, located within close proximity of homes, churches, schools, and businesses,and is now a California Department of Corrections state private prison of 120-beds at $33,000 a person.

CCA has been responsible for poor nutritional meals, absence of mental health services and medical treatment for those pregnant and terminally ill, overcrowding that breaches their contract stipulations, misuse and improper handling of the distribution of prescribed medication, high volume of emergency response calls, lack of incentives for good behavior, poor quality air conditioning units, high staff turnover rate, as well as improper training and the lack of personal safety equipment for staff. This abuse and injustice must end!

AF3IRM San Diego, along with other community groups, demanded the County of San Diego do the following: 1) Terminate their partnership with the CCA; including contracts and return buildings currently occupied back to the community; and 2) Demand a thorough investigation into their high use and possession of narcotics in their facilities, possible tampering and forging of County/Federal documents, lack of resources and programs for formerly incarcerated Individuals. We also requested that the San Diego Police Department along with the San Diego Fire Department/EMT relinquish all documented complaints from the community and a record of dispatch calls they have received from the facility where they responded to a situation at the center. Additionally, community organizers request that the Federal Bureau of Prisons release their full monitoring audit documents for both facilities from 2015 to the public. Lastly, we demanded quality re-entry services that are not run by for-profit prison corporations.

We know that CCA’s goal is not to rehabilitate or release prisoners – it is to continue to buy up more prisons and detention centers, to increase the number of prisoners and detainees on their rosters, and to expand their profit margins at whatever cost. Take action and join the fight across the country as we demand real criminal justice and prison reform – one that is out of the hands of private corporations! This fast for justice will continue until all action items requested by the protest organizers have been satisfied.

Join AF3IRM San Diego and other activists and community leaders to protest the Corrections Corporation of America! Resist the corporate prison industry! End the profiteering off of people’s lives!